by Karen Arnold
(Hamilton, IN USA)
The persons that I feel contributed most to the advancement of communication with and for the Deaf is GOD because he gave the Deaf, their desire to express themselves and to be understood.
As a hearing person, I learned to express myself through hearing others talk. For most people (hearing) language is acquired by means of hearing and is expressed by speaking. When formulating concepts and ideas, most people who can hear spontaneously rehearse spoken words and phrases in their mind prior to speaking them. However, when a child is born deaf, can the mind formulate thoughts in another way? YES. There is a language that can transfer ideas, abstract and concrete, from one mind to another without a sound ever being made.
One of the wonders of the human mind is our capacity for language and our ability to adapt it. However without hearing, learning a language usually becomes a function of the eyes, not the ears. Happily, God gave us the desire to communicate and it burns deep within the human soul, enabling us to overcome any apparent obstacle. This need has led Deaf people to develop many signed languages worldwide. As they have come in contact with one another, having been born into Deaf families or brought together at specialized schools and in the community, the result has been the development of a sophisticated language that is custom-made for the eyes—a signed language that is truly beautiful to watch and learn.
The best parent wants to communicate with their child and if that child is Deaf or the parent is the best thing that could show their love is to learn (or teach) sign language to their child. They would see that Deaf people can formulate thoughts, abstract and concrete without needing to think in a spoken tongue just as each of us hearing, formulates thoughts in our own language. They think in their signed language.
Learning sign as a child is a benefit for the child born Deaf and the hearing child of Deaf parents. The future of a child born Deaf is better because they can learn to support themselves and communicate their needs. Being hearing doesn’t mean you are smart just like being deaf doesn’t mean you are dumb. Hearing is using your ears while signing is using your eyes.
I am impressed by the subtle complexities and the richness of expression of ASL. Most topics, thought or ideas can be expressed by sign language. I hope the trend continues to be that Deaf are taught in sign language and that more people will take the initiative to learn ASL to communicate with our fellow citizens.